Words, when used with purpose can trigger a powerful array of emotions. There are words such as “ruthless,” “cruel,” “tyrannical,” and countless other passionate terms. “Empire,” has become one such pejorative in the early Twenty First century, particularly when hyphened after the name American.
Empires reach back to the earliest of civilizations: Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Mayan, Inca, British, and on. The terms listed above certainly applied to the tactics of oppression used commonly by those powers. Still there isn’t much discussion of the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, (14th to the early 20th Centuries).
We are living today in the fallout of that once powerful Turkish Empire, and the west, for the most part, has no idea of this historical backdrop. And this is no study of the Ottomans, by any means, but it is a look at the consequences of that powerful empire’s ruthless, cruel, and tyrannical reign.
By the turn of the Twentieth Century the Sultan’s realm was waning, the borderlands began breaking free from centuries of aggressive persecution. So unstable was the region by 1914, Turkey became a known as, “The Sick Man of Europe.” Siding with the Central Powers in World War One, (1914-1918) the once powerful kingdom gambled all, and ultimately lost their lands to treaty makers at Versailles. The western victors quickly assumed authority over the fallen empire, and promptly commenced to dissect the region, dividing up the spoils of war.
Before the Great War had ended devastation visited the various populations within the failing empire. Armenians had been slaughtered, Kurds, Yazidi’s, Christians, Jews, and Muslims began to emerge from under the now-eclipsed reach of Turkish authority. Western nations swooped in, and attempted to organized this unruly disgruntled mix of contending ethnic communities. Oblivious European leaders divided up much of the former Turkish empire, and Syria, for example, was born and handed over to the French. Mesopotamia ended up batted back and forth in heated debates between the two major Colonial powers; Mosul ending up in the hands of France, and Baghdad into the hands of the Brits. At the same time uncooperative tribal strong arms jealously guarded their newly liberated territories from the presumptuous Europeans.
Enter the oil business.
Discovered by intrepid Western engineers, places formerly ruled by the Ottoman’s were found rich in petroleum reserves. A new, more urgent need for order rose because the financial stakes were, oh so much greater. The British charged into the unruly breach, and aided by the French (who also desired oil), contrived a new nation. Placing a puppet leader on the throne, the nation of Iraq was born. Muslims–Shia and Sunni, Kurds, Christians, Jews, etc…now found themselves suddenly under a new boss, a new flag, and lots of western oil engineers.
Now, due to short sighted foreign policy makers in Washington, no central government actually exists in this fabricated country of Iraq. The lid is off, and the artificial ties that supposedly held the nation together have utterly vanished. Mesopotamia had been a seething, unstable area before World War One, before Versailles, before Saddam Hussein, and before George W. Bush. Still, a thorough look back in time, without the blinders of oil profits clouding the issue, might have saved us all from the consequences of falling into the morass left by the Ottomans.
A bitter, contentious mess endures where the Turks once ruled. Now, today, the world looks to the American-Empire, which so unceremoniously blundered into this preexisting turmoil to restore stability to the chaos created long ago under the “Sultan’s Tent.”